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Epson Moverio BT-100 review

Epson's 3D headset arrives to challenge the Sony HMZ-T1

BT 100 headphones

Put the BT-100 on and it immediately feels different to Sony's effort. For a start, it's lighter, and doesn't have as much weight on the front, something that makes it easier to wear for longer periods.

That's not to say that this headset is exactly comfortable. Most of the electronics appear to be in each side, which is also where both the headphones and the cables protrude from.

The headphones are of generic design, and quality, but could – theoretically – be upgraded. They are supplied separately as single earpieces that attach to each arm of the BT-100, each with a cable about two inches long.

As far as cables are concerned, that's just the beginning; you also have to put up with a thick cable from each arm that stretches down to the smartphone-sized trackpad.

Using that rather old-fashioned looking trackpad is easy enough, and swiping through the Android carousel-style interface is a cinch. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi was disabled on our review product – an early prototype – so we were not able to test the BT-100's web browsing capabilities.

However, we were able to call up the browser and inspect the setup process, which is almost identical to a smartphone running Android. Besides, we can't see the point of web browsing on video glasses – especially on some that are aimed at business travellers on long haul flights.

BT 100 trackpad

Having not thoroughly tested it, we ought not to criticise, but this does appear to be a novelty feature; we all have a touchscreen smartphone in our pocket anyway.

No, the BT-100 is all about video. Where the image appears to be in your field of vision depends on where you look; stare off into the middle distance and you'll see what appears to be a giant cinema screen about 300 inches in diameter, but you can just as easily watch the same image as TV-sized picture on a wall or object a couple of feet in front of you.

It takes a while to get used to, but it made us smile as soon as we put the glasses on – and that's always a good sign, especially for a new genre of gadget.

BT 100 front facing

On our demo product we had several videos pre-installed, including trailers and an MP4 file of Knight & Day. The latter was presented in widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, and appeared plenty detailed enough, though hardly comparable a Blu-ray disc.

Moverio bt 100

It's not the sharpest image we've seen, and nor was it the most steady – we noticed the odd shudder and blur – but it was comfortable enough for around half and hour of viewing, and on pure video quality actually slightly above our expectations.

It's best used in dim light, but works okay anywhere but the brightest of surroundings – though the smoked glass frontage is best left in place (it can be removed, but with devastating consequences).

Not surprisingly for a product with two eyepieces, the BT-100 can also show 3-D video. However, the native transparency of the product means that watching in 3-D is not as immersive as it could be, though we noticed none of the ghosted images, crosstalk, or brightness issues that blight some 3-D TVs and projectors.

Sadly, it's also not as 3-D as it could be, either; depending on where you aim the product, the picture can appear to be a long way away, but there is little depth within the 3-D image itself – though it is perceptible. Note that the BT-100 is only compatible with the side-by-side 3-D format.

Moverio bt 100 usb

There is, however, one problem with the BT-100 that strikes at its core usefulness for airline passengers. Is it the fact that the transparent image is projected onto random objects – typically super-imposed onto a switched-off LCD screen in the airline seat in front?

Actually, no, we experimented with viewing the image over a host of different objects and in varying degrees of brightness, and although the lines and shape of the background is occasionally obvious (and you would never 'aim' the BT-100 at a window or other light source), that's not the major problem. The big issue is sound.

headphones

Take any random long haul cabin and the ambient noise – the engines, the aircon system, the screaming children – can reach 50 decibels. That's why noise cancelling headphones have been such a success in the last five or so years, and they are sorely missed here.

We're not talking bulky, battery driven designs that cost £250; decent, and fairly cheap, earbuds that are capable of blocking out most aircraft sounds should have been provided. Regular business travellers will already have noise cancelling headphones of some kind, so using the BT-100 will mean making a compromise on sound.

Verdict

full package

Without the sense of isolation that blights Sony's effort, Epson's see-through home cinema experience is a tad easier on the senses, though we're not sure the two should be compared too closely.

While Sony's HMZ-T1 is a 3D gaming accessory, the Moverio BT-100 is a business traveller's indulgence, though both are first-gen efforts with significant drawbacks.

As a hands-free alternative to an iPad or smart phone, the BT-100 is a good first effort, though a little rough around the edges – hopefully the second generation attempt will have noise cancelling headphones and a few less cables to contend with.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeVideo Glasses
Virtual Screen Size8.13 m
Brand NameEpson
Graphic ModeqHD
Viewing Distance20 m
ColourBlack
Battery Run Time6 Hour
ManufacturerEpson Corporation
Product ModelBT-100
Product NameMoverio BT-100 Video Glasses
Product LineMoverio
Screen TypeLCD
Manufacturer Part NumberBT-100
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.epson.co.uk
Marketing Information

The Moverio BT-100 is a head-mounted display (HMD) that offers wearers a chance to enjoy big-screen entertainment on the go. Weighing only 240 grams, this compact product is the world's first product of its kind and is packed full of Epson technologies.

Screen Resolution960 x 540
Weight (Approximate)240 g